Do you consider yourself an adventurous eater? A few of my friends and I are culinary globe-trotters, eating our way through different ethnic restaurants every few months. We jokingly call ourselves the “Dining Divas” and look forward to our organized outings. We’ve enjoyed the dishes of India, Korea, Cuba, and Japan. This month, it was the cuisine of Afghanistan.
While I certainly don’t cook nearly as wide a variety of gastronomy at home, I do try to include weekly dinners that are some of my family’s favorites: Asian-inspired, Mexican, Italian, Greek, and good ol’ Americana.
This summer though, we’ve been grooving on lots of Middle Eastern fare. We’ve always enjoyed hummus, kabobs and the like, but lately I’ve embraced Middle Eastern fresh vegetable salads, bulgur and tahini in everything. It’s healthy and delicious.
Maybe I’ve gravitated toward this cuisine because my daughter was in Israel this summer. Her trip was a wonderful mix of things like visiting Yad Vashem (the World Holocaust Remembrance Center), helping to host a dinner for holocaust survivors, bedding down for the night in a Bedouin tent in the desert, and cleaning up the beaches of Tel Aviv. Her texts describing what she was doing and where she was going were awe-inspiring.
The photos of what she was eating made me hungry. Israeli food is hard to describe. It’s a little bit of everything and is bright, fresh and colorful. Because our interest was piqued, my husband and I watched a documentary recently called “In Search of Israeli Cuisine” and found it fascinating.
The film follows American chef Michael Solomonov as he tours Israel and interviews chefs, restauranteurs, cheese makers, winemakers, and home cooks to uncover their take on Israeli cuisine. It isn’t just about hummus and falafel.
Because Israel is a nation made up of mostly immigrants, much like the U.S., the influencing cuisines are international in scope. It draws from diverse food traditions including Persian, Moroccan, Lebanese, Russian, Italian, French and Polish, among others.
The resulting cookery is a dynamic mix of spices, techniques and mash-ups. Chefs put their own spin on the traditional foods of the country their parents immigrated from. Because of that, Israel has developed a burgeoning restaurant scene and become a foodie hotspot.
This week’s recipe is adapted from “Jerusalem: A Cookbook” by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The authors are both from Israel; one is Jewish, one is Arab. Based in London, the two chefs cook, own restaurants and write cookbooks together.
This salad is a perfect way to use up that bumper crop of summer veggies you might have grown or picked up at the Sunday farmers market. It is bright, fresh, and colorful and may help you become a more adventurous eater.
Chickpea and Fresh Vegetable Salad
Serves 4 to 6
- 1 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 6 tbsp. olive oil, divided use
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tsp. sherry vinegar
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 2 large tomatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 2 small cucumbers, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 bunch radishes (about 10), trimmed and quartered
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
In a bowl, combine allspice, cardamom, cumin and 1/4 tsp. salt. Spread out spice mix on a plate and roll the chickpeas in the spices to coat. Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the chickpeas and pan fry until warmed through 2 to 3 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally. Set aside to cool.
Combine 5 tbsp. of the olive oil with zest, juice, vinegar, sugar, and garlic in a small mason jar or covered container. Screw lid on tight and shake ingredients to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. Combine tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, bell pepper, onion and cilantro in a large bowl and toss with the vinaigrette. Add the chickpeas and toss gently to combine.